Retirement Replacement Rates and Retirement Wealth Inequality Among Baby Boomer and Other Birth Cohorts

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2014

Publication Title

The Journal of Retirement


The retirement readiness of baby boomers has been a topic of considerable but inconclusive research. Using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), the authors evaluate the relative retirement readiness of five discrete birth cohorts: Depression babies (born 1926–1935); World War II babies (born 1936–1945); two halves of the baby boom generation (older, born 1946–1955, and younger, born 1956–1965); and Gen-Xers (born 1966–1975). They construct a comprehensive measure of retirement wealth that combines both accumulated private net worth and the annuity values of Social Security and defined-benefit pensions at age 65. The authors then calculate replacement rates as the ratio of annuitized wealth at age 65 to average preretirement income. They find that median replacement rates decline steadily over the four birth cohorts from World War II babies to Gen-Xers and that younger generations appear to be considerably less well situated for retirement than baby boomers and earlier cohorts. By comparing ratios of replacement rates at the 99th and 50th percentile, the authors determine that retirement wealth inequality in the top half of the wealth distribution increases steadily across the five birth cohorts, reaching a peak among Gen-Xers.







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